The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN
This matter is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment. The question presented to the Court for review is whether the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (hereinafter referred to as "OSHA") of the Department of Labor exceeded its authority in amending an interpretive guideline regarding payment of employees for normal work time spent accompanying OSHA representatives conducting workplace inspections, including time spent participating in opening and closing conferences.
The necessity of employee participation in safety inspections has been recognized by Congress. 29 U.S.C. § 657(e) (1975).
The Department of Labor, as the Federal agency responsible for industrial safety, has sought to implement this Congressional policy and to protect the statutory rights of employees by declaring that the failure of an employer to compensate employees for time spent on walkaround inspections and in opening and closing conferences is Per se discriminatory in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 660(c)(1).
Plaintiff Chamber of Commerce seeks a declaration that defendants' interpretation of the antidiscrimination provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act"), set forth at 29 C.F.R. § 1977.21 (1977), and 42 Fed. Reg. 47344 (1977), is contrary to law and procedurally defective and also requests injunctive relief barring enforcement actions brought pursuant to the Secretary's interpretation. Plaintiff has also petitioned the Court for a ruling invalidating the Department of Labor's interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 Et seq., (hereinafter referred to as "FLSA"), requiring compensation of employees for time spent on OSHA inspections.
The Court of Appeals in Leone defined the issue before it to be "whether an employee who participates in a walkaround inspection is entitled to pay for that time under the provisions of either OSHA or FLSA." Leone 173 U.S.App.D.C. at 210, 523 F.2d at 1159. The Court of Appeals implicitly recognized that the Occupational Safety and Health Act, apart from the FLSA, could require compensation to employees participating in a walkaround inspection. Upon failing to reach a conclusion after examination of 29 U.S.C. § 657(e) and its legislative history, the Court then addressed plaintiffs' argument "that the policies of OSHA require that the time be considered "hours worked,' and thus compensable, under FLSA." 173 U.S.App.D.C. at 210, 523 F.2d at 1159. In rejecting this argument, the Court of Appeals noted that the District Court (Smith, J.) had relied upon a ruling by the Secretary of Labor that walkarounds need not be compensated under the FLSA and held that Judge Smith had properly deferred to the Secretary's ruling. While the Court of Appeals indicated by way of Dicta that it would have independently reached the same result as the Secretary on the FLSA issue, the opinion offers no guidance for the present situation where the Secretary has determined that FLSA principles require compensation for OSHA walkarounds. Moreover, the Court of Appeals did not have before it a case brought under 29 U.S.C. § 660(c) and the Leone decision cannot be interpreted as removing an employer's failure to pay for walkaround time from the coverage of Section 660(c).
In any event, appropriate judicial respect for an agency's interpretation of a remedial statutory scheme which it administers requires a full and fresh inquiry into the validity of the interpretive rule here at issue.
Examination of Sections 657(e) and 660(c) of the Act and review of the sparse legislative history concerning these sections does not compel any inexorable conclusion. The Court notes, however, that the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was enacted "to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions . . . ." 29 U.S.C. § 651(b). This Congressional intent is implemented through the development of safety and health awareness among employers and employees, the promulgation of safety standards and through the establishment of an enforcement program which calls for workplace inspections directed toward the discovery and elimination of safety and health hazards. See 29 U.S.C. § 651(b). As the Senate Report on the legislation makes clear, employee participation in the physical inspection of workplaces is considered both highly desirable and necessary. See Committee Print, Legislative History of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, 92nd Cong. 1st Sess. (June 1971) at 151 (hereinafter referred to as "Legislative History"). In order to protect and encourage employee participation in the statutory scheme, Congress enacted an extremely broad antidiscrimination provision which prohibits any person from discriminating In any manner against employees because of the exercise of any rights afforded by the Act. 29 U.S.C. § 660(c)(1); Legislative History at 857.
Opinions by the head of an administrative agency, "while not controlling upon the courts by reason of their authority, do constitute a body of experience and informed judgment to which courts and litigants may properly resort for guidance.' (citations omitted); this deference is tempered, however, when the ruling is inconsistent with Congressional policy (citations omitted).
Leone, 173 U.S.App.D.C. at 213, 523 F.2d at 1162-1163. See also Chisholm v. F. C. C., 176 U.S.App.D.C. 1, 538 F.2d 349 (1976), Cert. denied, 429 U.S. 890, 97 S. Ct. 247, 50 L. Ed. 2d 173 (1976); Marshall v. Daniel Construction Co., Inc., 563 F.2d 707 (5th Cir. 1977).
The Secretary's ruling is in no way inconsistent with the Occupational Safety and Health Act or any other expression of Congressional policy.
To the contrary, requiring walkaround pay is plainly adapted to the effectuation of employee participatory rights afforded by Section 657(e).
One ground for the Secretary's decision is the realization "that management representatives are often paid for the time spent accompanying OSHA representatives during an inspection while the employees participating in the same activity are not." 42 Fed. Reg. 47345 (1977). This unrebutted finding by OSHA, coupled with the Department of Labor's determination that walkaround inspection time constitutes "hours worked" under the FLSA, effectively refutes any argument that non-payment occurs only because the employee is not performing compensable work during a walkaround inspection and leads to the undeniable conclusion that employees who are not paid for walkaround time are being discriminated against within the meaning of Section 660(c). See e.g., plaintiff's exhibits E, F, G and H.
Moreover, the Secretary has administered the Act for seven years, and based on this experience has determined that "employee participation and cooperation at the inspection stage has proved to be critically important to enforcement efforts under the Act." 42 Fed. Reg. 47344 (1977). The Secretary has also observed that "loss of pay involved (in a walkaround) would clearly constitute a significant economic disincentive to employees' exercising their express statutory right under section 8(a) to accompany a compliance officer during an inspection." Id. at 47344-47345. Accordingly, the Court cannot disagree with the Secretary's conclusion that refusal to compensate employees for time spent in a walkaround "has a twofold and related impact: It is inherently destructive of the employees' right to participate in the walkaround and, consequently, impedes the free flow of information between employees and representatives of the Secretary which is so critical to effective enforcement of the Act." Id. at 47344. See NLRB v. Great Dane Trailers, Inc., 388 U.S. 26, 87 S. Ct. 1792, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1027 (1967); NLRB v. Erie Resistor Corp., 373 U.S. 221, 83 S. Ct. 1139, 10 L. Ed. 2d 308 (1963).